This Is What Actually Happens to Your Cells When You Exercise

This Is What Actually Happens to Your Cells When You Exercise
Image: Know Your Meme

A study by a handful of Australian universities and researchers has revealed how the mitochondria really reacts during exercise.

For those that don’t know or were simply not on Tumblr during 2013, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and acts as a brain to the rest of the cell. While it’s massively important to the functions of our cells, it’s also a big part of mitochondrial disease, type 2 diabetes and cancers. If we could understand how the mitochondria reacts to exercise better, we might be able to fight these diseases easier.

That’s where this new research comes in. The University of Melbourne and Victoria University, in collaboration with the German Diabetes Center, Monash University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, has established a link between minutes of exercise and changed mitochondrial habits that support greater metabolism.

“We are most excited by the breadth of changes identified as well as the method we developed to detect these changes,” says Dr. David Stroud from the University of Melbourne’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

“Previously, research groups have observed more mitochondria overall but didn’t assume much changed. By using our method we identified a previously unseen intricacy in changes.”

Mitochondria convert sugars, fats and protein to energy – in particular, the energy we use for muscle contraction, cell growth and brain activity. Using new study methods developed by Australian universities around exercise and the mitochondria, via high-intensity training and high-quality equipment at the University of Melbourne for muscle analysis, 10 times more mitochondrial proteins were found than previously noted in other studies.

“We hope the method can now be applied to focused studies where we look at different types of exercise to elicit certain responses,” Dr. Stroud added, noting that it could be used to counteract defective mitochondria functions in patients with type 2 diabetes.

These new findings challenge the current exercise recommendations – not that exercise is bad in any way (in fact, this study really goes to show how important exercise is to your body) but with 10 times more proteins discovered than what was previously recognised when you exercise, we might see a change in our fundamental understanding of fitness.

“We really want this knowledge to help exercise and health professionals to design more personalised training interventions focused to specific conditions where mitochondrial function is implicated,” added Victoria University Professor and the former president of exercise and sport science Australia David Bishop.

“As around 20 per cent of people don’t get any health benefits following current exercise guidelines, our findings may lead to different exercise recommendations targeted to improving mitochondrial function.

“Regular exercise is an inexpensive therapeutic intervention that can improve our quality of life.”